What I’m taking home from the east coast

It was early April, and our little family was making our way out east.  Me, JonPaul, the three kids and my five-month pregnant belly all packed into our little car, along with everything that was anything to us.  We were a buzz of excitement and adventure.  I can remember holding JonPaul’s hand as were about to cross the George Washington bridge, looking over at him with a sense of pride and accomplishment and thinking “Look at us –  pregnant, with three kids, starting a new life out east.  We got this.  The whole world is waiting for us.  This is going to be great….

Only to be interrupted by a scream coming from the backseat that “Sloan is about to fall”!  I quickly spun around from the front to find my one year old standing up in his car seat staring directly at me, on the verge of falling over.  So, I did the only thing I could do.  I scooped him up and pulled him up onto my lap.  There was nowhere to pull over, nowhere to stop.  So we just kept driving.  Onward we went.  Me, my pregnant belly, and my one year old, in the front passenger seat of our car, driving across the George Washington Bridge.  Ok, so maybe we don’t have this…

 That small moment in the car, with Sloan on my lap, Frankie in my belly, and the NY skyline to my right, set the tone for the next few years of our adventure.  JonPaul at the wheel, me catching a few close calls, and a grey area that was always shifting from confident pride to sheer panic.

Our time out east has been anything but smooth.  In fact, they were more challenging than I think any of us had anticipated.  But I can also say, that without a doubt, these few years have been the most life changing and impactful of our lives.  These years have unexpectedly shaped me into a different person.

So as I’m sitting here now surrounded by a sea of moving boxes and packing tape, it’s become clear that I’m returning home with so much more than I came here with. So many lessons, that maybe I needed to learn.  So many ways in which I’ve changed, grown, or maybe just simply stumbled into.  Either way, that girl who traveled east on the George Washington bridge with two babies on her lap years before, is now heading west across that same bridge taking a few life lessons along the way…

Humility looks good on everyone.

I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but if I’m being totally honest, I think I moved out east with a false sense of confidence, pride, and maybe even a touch of arrogance.  Here I was, a mother of three, who had done all of this before.  How hard could it be?  It’s just a simple move a few states away.

However, it didn’t take long for me to quickly be put in my place.  It turns out, the way I had always “done” things, wasn’t necessarily going to work out here.   There were different norms, different ways of doing things, different social graces.  So, I shed a little bit of my pride and adjusted.  I learned to be ok with not always being on top.  With not always having all the answers.  I stepped back and observed.  I took in what I could and humbled myself – a lesson I wish I would have learned years before.  A little bit of humility serves us all well.  I know it certainly did for me.

“Always be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle”

Making friends, and finding a sense of community here was hard.  For whatever reason, it just was.  And for two bubbly extroverts who crave connection, that was a struggle for JonPaul and I.

Although I can’t say that we truly ever got our footing, there were these unexpected, beautiful moments of humanity we experienced.  Moments where people were kinder, warmer, or more welcoming than necessary.  Maybe I was more sensitive, or aware of it, because of my situation.  Either way, I noticed them.  And those little moments added up and gave me hope. These people unknowingly changed the past three years for me, and and made my world a happier, brighter place.

Their actions may not even have been conscious, but to me, they were the world.   The first mom in the preschool parking lot who talked to me, so I didn’t have to stand alone.  The women at my yoga studio who always saved my “spot”, asked me about my kids, and made me feel like I belonged.  The teacher who lit up whenever she talked about my son, who made us feel like he wasn’t alone.

And there were more.  People, who unknowingly made our world a happier place, just by being kind.  And for that, I will always be grateful.

How we maneuver through our day, how we treat the person next to us in yoga, or the woman in front of us in the checkout line, or the mom standing next to us at preschool pick-up; that’s who we really are. That is us at our core.  So choose kindness … ”for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”

Nothing is permanent

The only constant in life is change itself.  For a long time, I fought that.  I thought that I was comfortable with change, but deep down I’m pretty sure I fought mother nature every step of the way.

Whether it was trying to recreate my old life, keep relationships the same, or even just simply fighting the fact that my kids were growing up into and turning into different people.  I was so afraid of change that I clung on to things tighter than I needed to.

It took me a long time to understand that the sooner I stopped holding onto what “was” so tightly, I would finally be able to enjoy what “is”.

Say yes, not just to the big thing, but to the small things too

Taking a leap of faith and moving our family half way across the county was our way of saying “yes” to a new opportunity and new life.  Taking risks and making big changes was something we were used to. But what I wasn’t as aware of, or as conscious of, were all the little ways life presents us opportunities to say yes.  To new ideas, new friendships, new ways of doing things.  It’s all of those little feelings we get in our gut.  Those are the things that I started to tune into more, and say “yes” to.  Whether that meant reaching out to an old friend, starting a new venture or just putting myself out there in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise done.

Those small, little ways in which I sad “yes” then opened the door to other big things that wouldn’t have happened had I not originally taken that small leap of faith.  I had previously gotten so good at tuning those little voices out, or not even hearing them, that I wasn’t even aware of all the ways I was turning away from things.  There is a world of abundance awaiting us, but the first step is to say “yes” … to all of it.

You always have a choice – survive or thrive

There are always choices in front us.  Even when it feels like there’s not.  They are there.

For me, one of the biggest choices I had to make was whether I was going to survive these years, or thrive.  It was up to me.  My situation wasn’t going to change.  I couldn’t control that.  But I had a choice in how I was going to view it.  How I was going to react.  So, I quickly shifted and changed my outlook from just surviving out east, to thriving.  To making a life that I loved.  And you know what, I kind of did.  I can’t say that our life out here was perfect, or even close.  There are a lot of things I would have changed over the years.  But in so many ways I thrived.

I put myself out there exploring my writing, sharing my food, pursuing new interests, friendships and ways of doing things.  And it fueled me.  It brought me joy, and personal satisfaction and pride.  It made me happy and created an environment where I could grow.

But that didn’t happen because of my environment, situation, or because the stars all aligned – it happened because I made a choice to do it.  That choice – to thrive, to be happy, and to find joy is always there.

When you don’t know where to look, turn in.

When JonPaul, the kids and I struggled with finding a sense of community, we turned to each other.  We quickly turned our view to inside the four walls of our home, and turned in.   We became each other’s best friends.  We became dance partners, swing pushers, story tellers, and lunch buddies to each other.  We discovered that what we couldn’t find outside our house, we could find within it.

And more importantly I found that individually.  When I couldn’t find what I was looking for out in our community, I became it.  For others, and even for myself.  Instead of waiting for someone to ask me to lunch, I asked someone.  Instead of waiting for someone to drop food off on my porch, I took food to others.  Instead of waiting for someone to befriend me, I went and befriended someone.

Most often what we’re looking for out in the world is right in our own home, and even more importantly, within us.  You don’t have to look much further.

I can’t say that these three years turned out how I thought.  I think that together as a family, and individually, we failed at so many aspects of this transition.  Things didn’t turn out how we had thought and we made so many mistakes along the way.

But in that same breath, those failures, both big and small, have been eye opening, humbling, and awakening.

As I’m closing up this chapter of our lives and taping up our final boxes, my heart is filled with more gratitude than I can express.  For all of it.  The good and the bad.

I’m a person who believes that things happen for a reason, and I believe that our family was given the gift of these three years as a chance to grow.  To grow, and in many ways stumble, into stronger, humbler versions of who we already were.

We are heading home today, not just changed, but changed for the better. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Some of my favorite moments over these three years….

photo credit Elizabeth Grant Photography

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